Aleksandr Danilovich Alexandrov was born in the Volyn village
of the Ryazan province on August 4, 1912. His parents were high school
teachers. He entered the Physics Faculty of Leningrad State University in 1929
and graduated in 1933. His supervisors were Boris Delauney (1890–1980), a
prominent geometer and algebraist, and Vladimir Fok (1898–1974), one of the
outstanding theoretical physicists of the last century. The first articles by
Alexandrov dealt with some problems of theoretical physics and mathematics. But
geometry soon became his main speciality.
Alexandrov defended his PhD thesis in 1935 and his second doctorate thesis in
1937. He was elected to a vacancy of corresponding member of the Academy of
Sciences of the USSR in 1946 and was promoted to full membership in 1964.
From 1952 to 1964 Alexandrov was the Rector of Leningrad State University. These
years he actively and effectively supported the struggle of biologists with
Lysenkoism. Genetics had been in the syllabus of LSU in the 1950s whereas this
happened in the other domestic universities only in 1965. The name of Rector
Alexandrov is connected with the uprise of the new areas of science such as
sociology and mathematical economics which he backed up in the grim years.
Alexandrov was greatly respected by established scholars as well as academic
youth. “He led the University by moral authority rather than the force of
direct order,” so wrote Vladimir Smirnov (1887–1974) in the letter of
commendation on the occasion of Alexandrov's retirement from the position of
Contribution to Science
Alexandrov owned the first class results in geometry,
partial differential equations, real function theory, and mathematical crystallography. He paid much attention to the geometrical problems
of foundations of relativity and achieved significant progress in this area.
Alexandrov's studies in geometry started within the theory of mixed
volumes of convex bodies in which he significantly developed
the results by Minkowski and other classics of this science.
One of the most brilliant results of Alexandrov is his solution of the Weyl
problem on realization of a convex surface with a given intrinsic metric.
The works of Alexandrov on the theory of irregular surfaces developed
the geometrical conception of space, which makes them everlasting.
These contributions by Alexandrov deserve commendation along with
the achievements of the best geometers such as Lobachevsky,
Riemann, and Cartan.
In 1964 Mikhail Lavrentyev (1900–1980) invited Alexandrov to join the Siberian
Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Alexandrov moved with his
family to Novosibirsk where he found many faithful friends and students.
he headed a department of the Institute of Mathematics (now, the Sobolev
Institute), lectured in Novosibirsk State University, and wrote new versions of
geometry textbooks at the secondary school level. Alexandrov opened his soul and
heart to Siberia, but was infected with tick-borne encephalitis which undermined
his health seriously.
Alexandrov was welcome and acclaimed at the beginning of his stay at Novosibirsk.
Crowds of people visited his public lectures mostly on the general issues of life and science.
But soon the bosses and their “dish-leasers” became envious of his
public influence. He encountered ribaldry, mockery, and even abuse,
but revealed stoicism of a warrior and overcame all attacks with dignity
The epoch of stagnation in the USSR was marked with a rather grim atmosphere
of the intellectual life of the country.
The then country was an instance of the realm of mediocrity.
Chaps of no merits used their party connections to control practically
all sides of academic life. The group of geometers together
with a few allies from the other mathematical departments was a small detail
besieged by adversaries. Only the broad back of Alexandrov helped us stay in
Alexandrov hated all crooks, “Marxism-borne” popes and inquisitors who used
science for mean and greedy ends. There is a precipice of repulsion between
science and power. Power confronts freedom which is the essence of mathematics.
Alexandrov viewed science as the tool that liberates humans from material burdens
and untether them intellectually.
Geometry taught Alexandrov universal humanism.
He liked the words of Paul the Apostle and repeated that “there is neither Greek,
nor Jew” in geometry. Humanism, responsibility, and scientific stance are the
ingredients of the perfect morality by Alexandrov. Human is the source and aim
of everything. That is the essence of universal humanism. Human is responsible
for everything. That is the meaning of responsibility. The scientific stance as
human's statement free of subjectivism is that which makes the foundation of
Return to St. Petersburg
From April of 1986 up to his death on July 27,1999,
Alexandrov was on the staff of the St. Petersburg Department of the Steklov
All his life up to his terminal day Alexandrov stood at the viewpoint of Communism.
If asked whether he believed in Communism, he always answered:
“For me it is not a matter of belief but a matter of science.”
Also he perfectly understood the rotten nature of the political
system of the USSR and never concealed his negative attitude to the regime.
Alexandrov went through a long and exuberant life.
He was a great citizen of his great country.
 Alexandrov A. D.
Selected Works. Part 1: Selected Scientific Papers.
(Ed. by Reshetnyak Yu. G. and Kutateladze S. S.)
Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, 1996.—x+322 p.
 Alexandrov A. D., Kolmogorov A. N., Lavrent′ev M. A.
(Eds.) Mathematics: Its Content, Methods and Meaning. Vol. 1–3
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1999.—xviii+372 p.
(Reprint of the 2nd 1969 ed.)
 Alexandrov A. D.
Convex Polyhedra. (English translation by Dairbekov N. S.,
Kutateladze S. S., and Sossinsky A. B.
Comments and bibliography by Zalgaller V. A.
Appendices by Shor L. A. and Volkov Yu. A.)
Berlin etc.: Springer-Verlag, 2005.—xi+539 p.